Unique Little Boxes Not Made of Ticky-Tack – Maya Messinger, MAAT Design Firm

Hello again, faithful readers! Actually, I have no idea of my posts’ view counts. But there are only so many upbeat phrases you can intro with.

Last time I posted was over a month ago, and we’d just learned about pocket and pilot holes. Well, since then, we’ve turned in our Milestone 2 and gotten started on the big stuff. If you’ve read posts since Spring Break, they probably mentioned Milestone 2. It was the interior design part of the project, using SketchUp to model and design the furniture that we’ll have in the Airstream. Basically, we were given free range, with a few constraints: we had to make specific objects like “chair”, “counter”, “couch”, and “table”, had to stay within some dimensions for everything to fit comfortably in the Airstream. Well, it got finished. I am the proud designer and modeler of a dinette/conference table (sounds fancy, but basically just a small square table), a long workspace/countertop (took me a horribly long time to make something so easy), and I helped with designing the monstrosity of our couch. The funny thing – and I mean funny as in so-shocking-it-hurts-to-think-about way – is that for all the work we did on the couch, we didn’t actually have to make so many support beams.

Orr couch, with a bazillion dimensions, to show you all the wood pieces needed to make it.

Our couch, with a bazillion dimensions, to show you all the wood pieces needed to make it.

Anyways, moving on. Last week, we took a trip to Austin Community College to have a workshop day with Pam Powell! It was super-cool, because “workshop” really means workshop. We got to see what is basically Pam’s classroom: a giant room with a bunch of worktables and power tools. Not power tools like drills, but tools like chop saws, routers, huge band saws, and some other things that were so fancy I forgot their names. But basically, it was like 21 amateurs being in a professional’s workspace. Oh wait, bad use of “like” – that’s what it was. Here’s a pic of the room from the ACC website:

The exact room where the magic happened.

Pretty awesome, right? Pam teaches classes that literally build houses. One class will make the foundation of a 16 ft x 32 ft building (I think those are the dimensions), another will do the walls, another will do the roof, etc. Each class specializes on a different aspect of buildings, and they work together to make one house! We got to look around at all the tools, see one of the in-progress houses, and then we got to make toolboxes! That may sound stupid, but I promise you it was far from it. We got demonstrations of how to turn chunks of wood into professional-looking parts to a toolbox. And then each of our girls got to put their own toolbox together – sanding, drilling, gluing, hammering, and all. It was fun and cool to get our hands on stuff and build! …Even if the pieces were pre-cut for us.

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From Ms. Jo’s Twitter. I’m helping Brad!

So then, a couple days later, Pam visited us at school and we had a building workday! We had girls scrubbing the interior of the Airstream, girls building a table for our chop saw (turned out really nicely – it’s finished and in our portable), and I got to use my newest love, the jigsaw, to cut out patches for parts of the Airstream’s floor that need fixing. There are holes in the floor, so we just cut out wood pieces that fit into the holes to make them disappear! Simple, and I only cut into our sawhorse once! (Jk. But not really jk. There’s a cut in the sawhorse I was using, and it wasn’t there before I started.)

Anyways, after all that, we’re still on to new things! We are currently, in our groups, coming up with themes and color schemes for the Airstream. Today, we went to Hancock Fabrics to look at colors and fabric for our upholstery and curtains. I won’t write much for that, because really, I’m out of my depth when it comes to color coordination and choosing between two very similar shades of beige. I let Abby and Alex take care of that, and nod when appropriate.

Now, ladies and gents, on to our “Learning Time”. Learning Time on this blog is special, because us posters are learning about these things at the same time you are. Learning Time today is about building houses. I mentioned earlier in this post about Pam’s classes building 500 ft2 houses, and my track coach is also currently building a “tiny house” to add on to his house as an office. Ms. Jo lived in an Airstream for a year, and last year’s VENTURA is almost livable-in. I’m interested in this process of starting from scratch and ending with an actual house, so I decided to see what it really takes to build a house.

I found a blog called “The Tiny Life”, which has a long post about what you need to do. It’s just a checklist, but for actually building the house (and there are still planning steps before that) there are no less than 24 sections of house that you need to work on. There are the small but important things like making sure everything is level and square (not off-balance like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and not weirdly angled), testing fits of doors, windows, walls to each other… There are the unheard-of materials like fascia boards, loft collar ties, furring strips, and drip edges… It’s crazy. You have to have building skills, math skills, endurance and patience, you have to be good with tools, and you have to wire the electricity lines yourself! You have to think about plumbing and gas lines! Who knows all of that?! It’s so cool to think about. We watched a TED Talk about two engineers who started a workshop for high school students in a small town, teaching them how to build stuff (I mentioned it in an early blog). Well, one of Studio H’s founders built a house for his senior project in university. Brick and mortar, a beautiful little place… The ending was sad, but I’m talking about the actual building. That’s awesome! And really, when you get to filling the interior of your house, it’s not much different from what we’re doing with our gutted Airstream. So lesson: we’re doing something really cool. We’re learning techniques pros use, learning how to do stuff that grad students are doing, and we’re doing awesome. It’s fun! Maybe for our Capstone, we can actually build a house!

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